University President Under Fire for Telling Students and Staff to Vote Against Le Pen

French far-right party Rassemblement National (RN) presidential candidate Marine Le Pen ar

The president of the University of Nantes has come under fire after circulating an email to students and faculty at the university, in which she called on them to vote against populist presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

President of the University of Nantes Carine Bernault sent an email to faculty and students on Wednesday stating, “I solemnly call on you to vote on April 24 to block the extreme right and therefore the National Rally.”

Bernault noted that her statement was “unusual” but claimed her call was “indispensable in view of the stakes attached to this vote,” newspaper Le Figaro reports.

After the email became public, the university president was heavily criticised by several right-wing politicians including National Rally (RN) politician Jordan Bardella, a close ally of Marine Le Pen.

“The position taken by the President of the University of Nantes, in violation of the rules of neutrality imposed by her office, is gross misconduct. The students are right to be outraged. Be free: do not let your choices be dictated by Emmanuel Macron’s friends!” Bardella, who serves as interim president of the RN while Le Pen campaigns for the presidency, said.

Sébastien Pilard, spokesman for conservative writer and pundit Eric Zemmour’s Reconquest! party also criticised the university president, saying: “This message… is a serious fault that must result in consequences.”

Serge Slama, professor of public law at the University of Grenoble Alpes told Le Figaro that as a university lecturer, Bernault was within her rights to express her political opinion, but noted: “The problem is that she is not only a professor, she is also a president. It exercises an official function and represents the university, which implies a certain neutrality.”

The scandal comes as polls show Le Pen and Macron in a tight race for the French presidency in the second round of voting, with one poll even putting Le Pen slightly ahead of the current French president.

Since the result of the first round of the presidential election, several establishment figures have come out in support of President Macron, including former right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy who stated earlier this week he would be voting for Macron.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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